As discussed in my Article of February 20, 2018, law enforcement (FBI and local) failed the students and faculty of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before the massacre of February 14, 2018. The failure was the (apparently systemic) turning of a blind eye and deaf ear toward early warnings of the threatening behavior of Nikolas Cruz.
Now we have learned that local law enforcement continued to fail the students and faculty during the attack. School “Resource Officer” Scot Peterson (now resigned) of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department drew his weapon but selected a safe position outside the “Freshman Building” while the shooting continued inside for a reported four minutes. Peterson was not alone in his cowardice. There were another three Sheriff’s Deputies who arrived during the shooting. They drew their weapons and cowered behind their police vehicles.
Would I risk taking a bullet to protect the innocent lives of strangers? I might but can’t say with certainty that I would. Had I aspired (as a younger man) to don the uniform and badge of a law enforcement officer, I would have needed to address and resolve my uncertainty. It is fashionable to applaud our police for their selfless courage, but too often the crucible of gunfire reveals an unsettling truth. The protective inclinations of a police officer should manifest both as a reflex (when a threat first appears) and on reflection as the choice is made to enter the field of fire. There are certainly police officers out there who would put themselves in harm’s way to protect you and me. Still, I wonder how many joined law enforcement just for the job security and the pension.
Having failed the students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School both before and during the massacre, there is the prospect that the Broward County Sheriff’s Department will fail the students and faculty after the massacre. Any Sheriff’s Deputy who declined to enter the Freshman Building immediately on arrival should be fired. Sheriff Scott Israel should take responsibility for the failure of his Department by concluding his generous network face time with an apologetic resignation. The next Sheriff of Broward County should resolve to instill a culture of courage and sacrifice in the ranks and weed out the cowards.
Indiana carries a curious criminal statute on its books just a couple of sections away from the familiar prohibition of Resisting Law Enforcement. The curious (odd, not inquisitive) neighbor is IC 35-44.1-3-3 titled Refusal to Aid a Law Enforcement Officer. The offense (a Class B Misdemeanor) is committed when a person is ordered to aid an officer and then declines to do so knowingly or intentionally and without “reasonable cause.” Is there a reciprocal offense for a police officer who fails to aid an endangered person when duty-bound to do so? I think not. Should there be? I think so, both here in Indiana and in Florida. Departmental discipline, even discharge, seems inadequate to address the cowardice of Sheriff’s Deputies while innocent lives depended upon them.
Should teachers be armed? Three heroes among the Parkland dead were male faculty members killed while (reportedly) trying to protect students or confront the shooter. It seems that they had within them the spark of courage and protective instinct. I wish they had been armed as well, regardless of the legality. If some teachers (volunteers only) are granted exemptions for concealed carry on campus, screening must be rigorous. As a survivor of public education, I can attest that emotional stability is not a constant among teachers. They also are not immune from that sort of amorous entanglement that can lead to violence. We don’t want to read that a scorned, bipolar school marm shot her romantic rival in front of a second grade class. If a school district is committed to rigorous, continuous screening, it should have the option (under state and federal law) to license some teachers, administrators, or other staff for concealed carry at school.
The biggest coward at Parkland was Nikolas Cruz, who picked a reliably soft target for his killing spree and then abandoned his weapon and fled prior to facing any real prospect of return fire. Thanks to the cowardice of Sheriff’s Deputies, the prospect of return fire was delayed much too long. I expect future reports to reveal that Cruz had exhausted neither his ammunition nor his available targets when he fled.¹
¹The CLB opinion on targets who shoot back can be found in the Featured Article of October 27, 2015 titled “The Elegance of Return Fire.”